A drawing of the proposed development

Military barracks is the key to Castlebar's future regeneration - architect

IMAGINATIVE development of the 19th century Military Barracks holds the key to the future regeneration of Castlebar.

So says Matt Stephens, architect with Mayo County Council, who claims the future of the county town and the now disused 6.2 acre barracks site are inextricably linked.

The site was obtained from the Department of Defence in 2012 and there are long term proposals to develop it.

Among the varied suggestions is a roofed-in visitor centre and creative areas for the development of arts, crafts and culture.

Another proposition is for a lift shaft connecting the property to Castle Street carpark while another suggests a ‘water powered funicular railway’ in and out of the site as a means of attracting visitors to the town.

A further proposal outlined by Mr. Stephens to members of the Tourism and Food Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) last Friday involves covering over the entire parade ground and utilising the area as a major centre for environmental studies.

It's not just about the barracks, Mr. Stephens emphasised. “Our principal ambition is to revitalise the town centre,” he stated.

“There's a sense that the barracks is isolated from the town. A lot of people would not even know it is there despite the fact that it's on a height overlooking the town.”

The latter viewpoint is supported by Joanna Grehan, director of services. She said: “There's a strategic link between the barracks and easy access to the town.”

It is more about Castlebar regeneration as opposed to just the military barracks in isolation.

Acting SPC chairman Councillor John O'Hara and Councillor Paul McNamara both agreed it's imperative the barracks site interacts with the town and does not become residential or commercial. “It's vital to bring in tourists,” said Councillor McNamara.

He proposed that further funding be sought for the project and this was seconded by Councillor Seamus Weir.